Background Information On Cancer
What Is Cancer?3,4
Cancer is a group of more than 100 diseases caused by the uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells. Tumors, or abnormal growth of tissue, may be benign or malignant. Benign tumors are usually slow-growing and not life-threatening, whereas malignant tumors (or cancers) are made up of cells with abnormal genetic material (or DNA) and usually grow more rapidly. Malignant tumors (cancers) have a tendency to invade neighboring tissues or organs and to travel and grow in other areas of the body (i.e., to metastasize). If the spread of the cancer is not stopped, cancer cells invade vital organs which can result in death. Cancer cells may remain at their original site (local stage), spread to an adjacent area of the body (regional stage), or spread throughout the body (distant stage). Cancers at the local, regional or distant stage are considered invasive. A very early cancer found in only a few layers of cells, called in situ cancer, is considered non-invasive.
What Causes Cancer?3,4
Cancers are caused by a variety of factors working alone or in combination. Some cancers are caused by external factors such as tobacco, diet, certain chemicals, radiation, and viruses. Other cancers are caused by internal factors such as hormones, immune conditions, and inherited genetic mutations. Usually ten or more years pass between exposure to a factor that causes cancer and detectable disease.
Cancer Incidence and Mortality in the United States
Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the U.S., with 1,220,100 new cases and 552,200 deaths estimated for 2000 by the American Cancer Society. Cancer occurs in people of all ages, but its occurrence increases greatly in people over 45 years of age. However, it is also the leading cause of non-accidental death among U.S. children under age 15. In the U.S., men have about a 1 in 2 lifetime risk of developing cancer and women have about a 1 in 3 lifetime risk. (These figures do not include basal and squamous cell skin cancers or in situ cancer except for the bladder.)
Over the past 50 years, the death rate from cancer has increased steadily, due mainly to a large rise in lung cancer death rates resulting from smoking. During the past few years cancer incidence and death rates have begun to decrease, possibly as a result of healthier lifestyles, particularly decreases in smoking. Men have a higher mortality rate from cancer than women, and blacks have the highest cancer mortality rate of any major racial group. Compared with earlier years, a much higher percentage of people diagnosed with cancer now are surviving. Now, about six out of every ten people diagnosed with cancer will survive for at least five years.
Sources of Information About Cancer
For additional information on cancer these organizations may be contacted:
American Cancer Society - phone 1-800-ACS-2345 (or 1-800-227-2345) or access the Internet website at http://www.cancer.org. The American Cancer Society is a nationwide, community-based, voluntary health organization dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem by preventing cancer, saving lives and diminishing suffering from cancer, through research, education, advocacy, and service.
Cancer Epidemiology Services, New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services - phone 609-588-3500 or access the Internet website at http://www.state.nj.us/health. Cancer Epidemiology Services has incidence data on cancer among New Jersey residents from the New Jersey State Cancer Registry, as well as informational materials from various organizations.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - voice information system 888-842-6355 or access the Internet website at http://www.cdc.gov/. The mission of the CDC is to promote health and quality of life by preventing and controlling disease, injury, and disability. The CDC's website includes a link devoted to cancer in English (http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/) and in Spanish (http://www.cdc.gov/spanish/enfermedades/cancer.htm).
National Cancer Institute - phone 1-800-4-CANCER (or 1-800-422-6237) or access the Internet website at http://www.nci.nih.gov. The Cancer Information Service (CIS) of the National Cancer Institute provides a nationwide telephone service for the public, cancer patients, and their families. Their health care professionals can answer questions in English and Spanish and send printed materials. People with TTY equipment for the hearing impaired may call 1-800-332-8615.
Special Population Networks for Cancer Awareness, Research, and Training - phone
1-301-496-8589. This program makes educational materials available to the public, and research and training programs available to minority researchers. It is a program of the National Cancer Institute.